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VOICES: Work@Home

One Of The Boys

Source: Article by Ivy Soon from the Star Online, 13 June 2012

SOME of Terrence Dawson’s friends have told him that the many hours he has spent with his children could be better used earning more money. They cannot understand his choice of opting out of a full-time job, and juggling his work appointments with his children’s schedules.

But the father of two boys – Mikhail, nine, and Hans, four – takes it all with a shrug.

“I don’t think of it that way. There are enough hours in the day to make money. Children grow up fast, and they are not going to be small for long. Mikhail can do his own stuff now,” says Dawson whose marketing job gives him the flexibility to determine his working hours.

He went down the well-trodden route the first year his elder son was born. He worked hard at a full-time job, and his wife assumed most of the responsibility of looking after their son. Sure, he’d take over when he came home from work and during weekends. But it didn’t always work out that well as he was tied to the long hours his job demanded, and that often had a way of taking precedence over the family.

“My wife Grace is a freelance writer and her schedule is also uncertain. We’d send our son to my mother or my sister, but it didn’t always work out for us. So, after a year, I resigned from my job and started my own business so I could have more flexible hours,” says Dawson. This arrangement, he believes, makes sense for it enables him to be involved fully in raising his two sons.

His mornings mostly revolve around school runs for Mikhail and Hans, and attending to their daily needs. He cooks for them, and the kids can’t quite decide which is their favourite of dad’s cooking as they rattle off a long list ... from chicken curry to frozen yoghurt.

Dawson says he juggles his work schedule with his wife’s appointments and his children’s needs. He checks into the office while the children are in school, and fixes appointments in the evenings and weekends. Sometimes, he even takes his children along to work. He also works from home, and takes disruptions by the children in his stride.

“The children sometimes ask for something when I am working. I usually just get up and give them what they want. To me, that’s far easier than asking them to wait and getting them all agitated. It takes maybe a few minutes, or half an hour to attend to them, but they’ll be happy and I can continue my work in peace.”

Dawson also takes his children outdoors a lot. They go to parks regularly, as well as swimming, trekking and fishing. They live in an apartment, but Mikhail and Hans are at home in the outdoors and are not squeamish about dirt and worms.

“We just took them for a deep-sea fishing trip to Terengganu,” says Dawson, who adds that the boisterous boys who wrestle each other could sit down quietly and wait for the fish to bite.

Dawson’s father used to take him fishing too, and this set the example of being fully involved in his children’s upbringing.

“My father used to cook for us, and now I cook for my children, too,” says Dawson who comes from a close-knit family. His mother and sisters look after the children whenever he and his wife are busy. Their new maid has just arrived and Dawson hopes the extra help will be handy as he is setting up a new business.

He believes the decision to be present for his children is a wise one.

“We spend a lot of time with our sons, and we talk to them a lot. We have been the one feeding them information, and deciding what goes into them. When my sons come along with me on my appointments, I explain to them what I do, and what we see along the way.

“I think they’ve learnt more because we put more into them. Most kids only get their parents on the weekends, and trips to shopping malls.”

As a result, Dawson says Mikhail and Hans are not so reserved, and interact well with others “because they also have lots of general knowledge”.

Hans is a little shy, but he listens attentively. Mikhail is a confident young man who is into military strategies. His father has bought him a movie on World War II fighter pilots, and he proudly shows me the sketch he did of the formation from one of the movie’s battle scenes. There is also a stack of library books on World War II that he is poring over.

These boys’ enquiring minds and imagination are nurtured by their parents through chats, interactions, outings, books and toys. Apart from the television and DVD player, the most sophisticated gadget in the apartment is an electric train set – there are no iPads or PlayStation.

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